Today, many of us are working remotely and experiencing different levels of flexibility than ever before. Our current COVID environment highlights the need for flexible work schedules as we deal with multiple priorities, challenges, and health concerns. So, what do we know about flexibility at work? And why does it matter?
Flexible work schedules can look very different across organizations. Generally, these schedules are ones that are not a traditional 9 to 5. At their core, they allow some customization in work hours. Some different forms of flexible work schedules are listed below.
- The use of core hours is common, where all employees should be present but with the flexibility to adjust start and end times. For example, a company can have core hours from 10 am – 2 pm. All employees are around during that time. Some employees choose to start their days early around 7 am to wrap up early. Other employees like to start at 10 and work later into the evening. All employees can pick and choose start and end times to fit their needs and can shift them from day to day!
- Other organizations still leverage designated work times where everyone is generally working from 9 to 5. However, employees have flexibility to come and go as they please as long as their work gets done. In these situations, some employees may schedule doctor’s appointments during the work day without having to take time off. Other employees go to workout classes in the middle of the day as a break. Basically, employees can take care of other things during the work day without anyone micromanaging their hours.
- Finally, in the most flexible workplaces, employees can set their own hours and work when they wish. The focus here is performance-based. Employees need to be in meetings that are important to their role and accomplish their goals. But when they do their work does not matter. Some people just jump on calls during the traditional work times but do all of their actual work at night and do personal tasks between calls. Each employee’s schedule could look very different in this setting.
What’s the Impact?
Flexible schedules have some big benefits for employees and companies alike. Employees generally take fewer sick days, see improvements in health, are more satisfied on the job, and experience less work-life conflict. In addition, employees are happier with their schedules (obviously) and are more productive when they have flexibility.
Does Age Matter?
Interestingly, a recent study looked at how employees from different age groups are impacted by flexible schedules. The good news is that it’s mostly positive for all groups. Older employees (51 and above) experienced fewer sick days and rated their health as better if they had flexible work schedules. Employees aged 30 to 52 saw reductions in work-family conflict. Furthermore, employees under 57 were more engaged and all employees were more committed to their organizations and jobs if they had flexibility in their schedules.
The only group that saw a downside was those aged 21 to 32. These younger employees rated their health worse when they had flexible schedules. The theory there is that younger workers fill their flexible time with other work or high demand activities while older workers tend to take that time for actual self-care. More work is needed but the lesson here might be that younger employees need to use their flexible time more effectively!
What Can You Do?
Organizations and leaders need to allow some flexibility for their employees. We know that having autonomy and control at work is incredibly important – both with scheduling and how work is done. Leaders can make a big impact in their employee’s wellness and performance by supporting a flexible schedule approach. We would encourage organizations to provide flexibility if possible.
Unfortunately, employees don’t always have power to create a flexible schedule. If you have a good relationship with your leader, bring this article to them and see if you can help people rethink how schedules should work. As you apply to jobs in the future, consider asking about flexibility before your next move. And, if you are lucky enough to have flexibility, make sure you use it wisely. Don’t fill your flexible time only with other work or tasks. Take some of that time for breaks or other recovery methods to support your wellness!